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Last weekend was our personal weekend so me and some of the other Duke students decided to fly to Shanghai right after our last English class ended Friday noon. Once we got to the airport, we ended up waiting at a crowded café for several hours due to indefinite delays. The Zhuhai airport was a crazy mess, with people whose flights scheduled for the day before were still waiting on their flights. Angry and frustrated people were everywhere and at one point, a fight between a customer and an airline employee broke out amongst the anguish. Eventually our flight was cancelled and had to stay in a hotel in Zhuhai for the night.

We finally got to Shanghai around noon the next day. Even at first glance, the city was quite different from Zhuhai. Much like New York City, it was tremendously cosmopolitan with its tall skyscraper-like buildings that lined the horizon along the river. The streets and sidewalks were wider and cleaner. Every corner we turned there was a large mall or shopping complex of some sort, bustling with people. Even the people in Shanghai seemed to be more accustomed to the presence of foreigners, for the usual long stares that we receive in Zhuhai when Duke students spoke a word of English were noticeably less. We saw the Bund, Nanjing Road, and this little area with small vintage shops where we saw curious stores ranging from fancily shaped “shao mai” and huge “xiao long bao” (it required you to sip out the soup from the bun with a straw) to an ear cleaning exhibit with rooms that allowed you to experience it firsthand.

After the personal weekend, the 9th graders had their long-awaited Zhong Kao, so we volunteered at other schools. We went to a school for kids with special needs, a vocational high school, and Jilin University. At the vocational high school, we held an impromptu 90 minute conversational English class with some high school students. Athina and I led a small group of students and had a discussion about their visions of America. Near the end, we started teaching them American slang words such as “swag”, “lol”, and “rip” and in return, the students taught us Chinese slang words as well such as “meng meng da” (which means a cute, kissy heart emoji) and “mei zi zi” (which means tasty). When we went to Jilin University, we interacted with tourism management majors and toured around their school. After mainly interacting with middle school students for several weeks, it was strange to suddenly be talking to students in English that were the same age or older than me. It took some time to get used to not using easier English words when I talked or not speaking at a slower pace. It was refreshing and interesting to understand what people my age were experiencing in a different part of the world. They taught us how to golf (I suck at it by the way) and do Chinese knotting, which was a great cultural experience.

On a side note, now that the program is coming to an end, I find myself trying my best to get as much time as I can with my host sister because now whenever I have events, I always ask my host sister to come along with me. Whenever I miss dinners at home or I have events elsewhere, I can tell that my host sister is a little sad that I’m not able to spend that time with her.